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An attosecond is 1×10−18 of a second (one quintillionth of a second).[1] For context, an attosecond is to a second what a second is to about 31.71 billion years.[2][3]

The word "attosecond" is formed by the prefix atto and the unit second. Atto- was derived from the Danish word for eighteen (atten).[4] Its symbol is as.

An attosecond is equal to 1000 zeptoseconds, or ​11000 of a femtosecond. Because the next higher SI unit for time is the femtosecond (10−15 seconds), durations of 10−17 s and 10−16 s will typically be expressed as tens or hundreds of attoseconds:

Times which can be expressed in attoseconds:

  • 1 attosecond: the time it takes for light to travel the length of two hydrogen atoms
  • 24 attoseconds: the atomic unit of time
  • 43 attoseconds: the shortest pulses of laser light yet created[5]
  • 53 attoseconds: the second-shortest pulses of laser light created[6][7]
  • 82 attoseconds (approximately): half-life of beryllium-8, maximum time available for the triple-alpha process for the synthesis of carbon and heavier elements in stars
  • 84 attoseconds: the approximate half-life of a neutral pion[8]
  • 100 attoseconds: fastest-ever view of molecular motion[9][10]
  • 320 attoseconds: estimated time it takes electrons to transfer between atoms[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "attosecond". Memidex/WordNet Dictionary/Thesaurus. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  2. ^ Electron Motion Filmed, 28 Feb. 2008
  3. ^ Exploring "Attosecond" Time. Visualising an Attosecond... How short is an attosecond?
  4. ^ atto- [A toh] (Danish or Norwegian: eighteen; a decimal prefix used in the international metric system for measurements). (2007-04-05). Retrieved on 2011-01-23.
  5. ^ Gaumnitz, Thomas; Jain, Arohi; Pertot, Yoann; Huppert, Martin; Jordan, Inga; Ardana-Lamas, Fernando; Wörner, Hans Jakob (30 October 2017). "Streaking of 43-attosecond soft-X-ray pulses generated by a passively CEP-stable mid-infrared driver". Optics Express. 25 (22): 27506–27518. doi:10.1364/OE.25.027506. ISSN 1094-4087.
  6. ^ Li, Jie; Ren, Xaoming; et al. (4 August 2017). "53-attosecond X-ray pulses reach the carbon K-edge". Nature Communications. 8 (1). doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00321-0. PMC 5543167.
  7. ^ Watching Quantum Mechanics in Action: Researchers Create World Record Laser Pulse – 4 September 2012 – ScienceDaily. Retrieved on 2012-09-04.
  8. ^ C. Amsler et al. (Particle Data Group), PL B667, 1 (2008).
  9. ^ "Fastest view of molecular motion". BBC. 2006.
  10. ^ Baker, S.; Robinson, J. S.; et al. (2 March 2006). "Probing Proton Dynamics in Molecules on an Attosecond Time Scale". Science. 312 (5772): 424–427. doi:10.1126/science.1123904. PMID 16513942.
  11. ^ Merali, Zeeya (20 July 2005). "Electron timed hopping between atoms". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 11 May 2016.
  12. ^ Föhlisch, A.; Feulner, P.; et al. (21 July 2005). "Direct observation of electron dynamics in the attosecond domain". Nature. 436 (7049): 373–376. doi:10.1038/nature03833.